And there I was, thinking Margaret Court had gotten into trouble again. From the Times Of India :
Tennis star Sania Mirza on Friday denied favouring pre-marital sex and alleged that media had misquoted her over the issue.
Claiming that she was totally against pre-marital sex, Sania said she was pained at the maligning of her image by misquoting her. She said a non-issue has been turned into a serious controversy by misquoting her.
“I would like to clearly say on record that I could not possibly justify pre-marital sex as it is a very big sin in Islam and one which I believe will not be forgiven by Allah,” Sania said in a statement issued here.
Her clarification came a day after strong protests from Muslim community and also various other organisations over the reported comments made in New Delhi on Wednesday.
“Attributing a viewpoint that is totally contrary to what I believe in and what I stand for as a Muslim and as an Indian girl is a creation of media to sensationalise a story and such sensitive issues needed to be confirmed before making such attempts,” she said.
Jon Solomon, our resident expert on morality, informs us that Sania’s earlier (alleged) remarks have led to her being burned in effigy. To which I say, why couldn’t it have been John Newcombe?
Someone else is in Larry Brooks’ corner when it comes to the nuevo NHL. From the Detroit Free Press’ Helene St. James.
Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman (above) has played 13 games in the new-rules NHL. He would like to see some of the old NHL back.
“Everybody keeps saying this is great. It’s not great,” Yzerman said. “It’s not hockey.”
Yzerman spoke in the visitor’s room at Rexall Place just minutes after the Wings had suffered a 6-5 overtime loss that left them winless in their past three games.
“There are penalties all over,” he said. “I’ll just use Mathieu Schneider’s penalty as an example. He steps up and takes his guy out, and his stick gets caught and the crowd cheers so the referee puts his hand up. There has to be some discretion. The referees have to use some judgment on what is a penalty and what is not. They’ve taken judgment out of it and I think it’s somewhat made it easy on the referees just to call anything, because there is no judgment.
“Good referees used to have good judgment. Now they’ve taken that out of the game. I’m not saying I’m blaming the referees for it, I just feel the whole thing has to be adjusted and they have to look at this seriously. They can’t continue to call irrelevant things that have no business being called.”
Courtesy of a first-period goal each from Martin Straka and Michael Nylunder, the Rangers are leading Carolina 3-1 midway through their matinee at MSG. Peter Prucha just scored a power-play goal off a nice feed from Jaromir Jagr. Marek Malik is having some difficulty staying on the ice —- Steve Yzerman might describe it as a battle against irrelevancy.
The Palm Beach Post’s Joe Capozzi reports that Florida are prepared to swap P Josh Beckett (above) for Texas 3B Hank Blalock, the Rangers’ willingness to absorb 3B Mike Lowell’s onerous contract being the key to deal.
The deal, characterized as “well in the works,” has been brokered in the past couple of days between Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria and Rangers owner Tom Hicks, an American League source said.
But both sources said the deal could fall apart because the Rangers are reluctant to part with one of their coveted pitching prospects.
The Marlins are asking for either left-hander John Danks, Texas’ first-round pick in 2003, or right-hander Thomas Diamond, the team’s first-round pick in 2004.
The Rangers’ reluctance to part with one of those pitchers is the only obstacle in the deal, but a major one that ultimately could kill it, a source said.
Loria, according to one source, wanted to complete the deal before he left the country on a trip to Italy, presumably in the next week. A Marlins source said Loria was already in Europe on Friday.
Danks went 4-10 with a 5.49 ERA in 18 games, 17 starts for Class AA Frisco, Texas. Diamond went 5-4 with a 5.35 ERA in 14 games for Frisco.
The Marlins also are pushing hard to trade center fielder Juan Pierre, and the Colorado Rockies have expressed an interest in catcher Paul Lo Duca. The team is trying to cut payroll because of financial problems exacerbated by a stalled stadium effort.
Perhaps the Dodgers will take LoDuca back and Bill Plaschke can MC the number-retiring ceremony?
Peter Gammons reports on ESPN.com that Boston are in the hunt for Blalock, and that the Marlins are equally determined to move Carlos Delgado, with Baltimore and both the New York clubs being the most likely suitors.
…so we’ll have to settle for the Press Release Of The Century, instead.
We regard Mr. Kramnik as a challenger, and nothing more.
In regard to the UEP press release, we would like shed clarity on several points:
We shall not accept the offer for a match against Mr. Kramnik due to several reasons:
1. We do not recognise Mr. Kramnik as a champion. The World Champion™s title belongs by law to FIDE and, after his refusal to participate in the official World Championship in San Luis, Mr. Kramnik automatically lost his right to be designated the World Champion. However, by the looks of it, he has decided to seize the title for the rest of his life. Let us remember that he™s only 7th in the World Ranking list, scoring quite mediocre results recently. At the same time, in addition to being the official World Champion, Veselin Topalov is Number 1 in the World Ranking List of 1 January 2006.
2. We proposed to UEP the match to be an official one under the auspices of FIDE. According to the new rules of FIDE, due to be published very soon, each grandmaster with Elo of over 2700 can officially invite the World Champion to a match for the title if he provides an appropriate prize fund and pays a 20% charge to FIDE as designated by law. Of course, our proposal to the organizer UEP was rejected.
3. We have never made any preliminary arrangements with UEP. Agreement exists only when there are signed papers; everything else is just words.
In conclusion, we would like to stress once again that the World Champion Veselin Topalov (above) is ready to play the challenger Mr. Kramnik, as well as any other grandmaster with a rating of over 2700 in an official match for the title under the auspices of FIDE.
Manager of the World Champion Vesellin Topalov
Kaisa Chess Management
Once again, Manhattan’s best football team is the Ivy League’s worst. From the New York Times’ Bill Finley.
Columbia is 0-6 in the conference this season while being outscored by 241-42. They also lost to Lafayette by a touchdown on Oct. 8. The Lions have not won an Ivy League football championship since they shared one with Harvard in 1961, and they were 1-6 in the league last year.
“It’s been a little of both, frustrating and disappointing,” said the senior quarterback Joe Winters (above). “We’re definitely talented as a group, but it didn’t come to fruition. We don’t think of ourselves as a 2-7 team, and it’s frustrating we couldn’t produce on Saturdays. It’s definitely been disappointing, but, hopefully, the program will use this as some sort of learning experience.”
I don’t know what Winters’ career plans are after graduation, but Isiah Thomas really ought to cosider taking him on as a press secretary.
From the BBC :
The shooting of a sparrow on the set of a Dutch world record domino-toppling attempt sparked outrage among animal lovers and led to threats to staff.
TV firm Endemol said it felt “terrible” about the killing. The head of a bird protection agency appealed for calm.
A special website received thousands of messages of condolence, but some say the bird did not do itself any favours by knocking over 23,000 dominoes.
The bird’s detour into the exhibition centre in the northern city of Leeuwarden earlier this week proved disastrous. Staff had spent weeks setting up four million dominoes.
The bird’s fate was sealed when it knocked over 23,000 and organisers feared it could knock down more. An exterminator cornered the sparrow and shot it.
The backlash followed as soon as the news got out – especially as the common house sparrow was put on the endangered list in the Netherlands last year.
A tribute website was set up attracting more than 24,000 hits, the Dutch animal protection agency threatened to investigate, and radio stations offered bounties for anyone who could knock down more of the dominoes before the event.
Dave Winfield was unavailable for comment.
That Great American Sports Commentator Jello Biafra once said of the Rev. Jerry Falwell (above), “God must be dead if you’re alive”. Which will come as slim consolation to Liberty College football coach Ken Karcher and Athletic Director Thom Park, both of whom were fired today by Falwell.
From the Lynchburg News & Advance’s Rob Brown and Chris Lang.
The departures – which essentially gut the school™s sports administration – come two days before the Flames™ season finale at Norfolk State.
œWe have not been happy with the general direction of athletics at Liberty, said Falwell, the school™s chancellor. œWe don™t feel that Liberty has been keeping pace, particularly in football.
The school™s athletics program lost $7.4 million in 2004, the biggest drain by any department on LU™s overall budget.
Falwell said Karcher will be on the sideline Saturday. The fate of the rest of his staff lies in the hands of the new head coach, who Falwell hopes to name within the next two weeks.
Falwell said he has already talked to three œbona fide head coaching candidates.
œI™m 72, he said. œI don™t have much time to get the football program in the Top 20.
Liberty enters Saturday™s game 1-9, and its current nine-game losing streak ties a school record. The only victory was a 17-6 win over Concord, a Division II team that finished its season 4-7.
Falwell said the school™s evangelical Christian emphasis should be a drawing card in recruiting athletes nationwide.
œThere are 80 million evangelicals in the United States, he said. œThat should give us a great big fishing pond.
(Bobby Abreu hitting one of his several dozen tape-measure shots during last July’s Home Run Derby. Presumably, he will once again hit another HR or two in a real game).
From the Sporting News’ Ken Rosenthal :
Most in the industry expect new Phillies GM Pat Gillick to do something big; right fielder Bobby Abreu would be a perfect trade addition for any team that fails to sign free agent Brian Giles. The Cubs could use the left-handed Abreu to hit between righties Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez. The Mariners also want to add left-handed power. The Astros ” Abreu’s original team ” would be another possible partner if they could somehow find a way to absorb the $30 million he is owed over the next two seasons. The Dodgers also would make sense. …
In a perfect world, the Phillies would prefer to trade pricey veteran Jim Thome rather than Rookie of the Year Ryan Howard. However, one executive suggests that Howard’s value might never be higher, while the Phillies surely are concerned that Howard remains unproven against left-handed pitching. Howard batted .148 against left-handers last season, with one homer in 61 at-bats. Of course, trading Howard wouldn’t help the Phillies financially. …
The Cardinals could lose both free-agent second baseman Mark Grudzielanek and infielder Abraham Nunez. Nunez wants to play regularly at second or short, even if it means joining a lesser club; his agent, former major-league pitcher Dave Stewart, says Nunez already has four three-year offers. The Red Sox, Rangers, Royals and Mets are among the teams pursuing Grudzielanek, whose preference is to remain with the Cardinals.
Perhaps taking a tip from Andy Reid (or perhaps not), Alex Ferguson reminds midfielder Roy Keane that while there is no “I” in “team”, there’s most definetly a “you” in “fuck off”.
From the Guardian’s Sean Ingle.
Roy Keane has dramatically left Manchester United, reportedly after another acrimonious dispute with Sir Ferguson.
Both club and player today insisted the decision to part ways was by “mutual consent”, however sources in Ireland suggest that Keane had a blazing row with the United manager after being told he wasn’t wanted for a reserve game against West Brom last night.
Keane was also told that he was being stripped of the captaincy, after which he realised he had no future at Old Trafford.
Today’s events were the culmination of months of frostiness between club and player, which started when the Manchester United captain criticised a pre-season get-together in Portugal as a waste of time. He then angered United further in September, by admitting he was likely to leave at the end of the season when his contract ran out – comments that came as a shock to Ferguson, who hadn’t been briefed on his captain’s feelings.
Then there was that infamous rant on MUTV – later destroyed by the club – in which he criticised key United players. “Just because you are paid £120,000-a-week and play well for 20 minutes against Tottenham, you think you are a superstar,” Keane said, pointing the finger firmly at Rio Ferdinand. “The younger players have been let down by some of the more experienced players. They are just not leading.
“There is a shortage of characters in this team. It seems to be in this club that you have to play badly to be rewarded. Maybe that is what I should do when I come back. Play badly. There is talk about putting this right in January and bringing new players in. We should be doing the opposite – we should be getting rid of people in January.”
(UPDATE : I’ve just been informed that Will Leitch covered this story with his typical aplomb :
It could very well be considered the end of Manchester United™s dominant reign; Keane was the tough, winning-driven captain, all business. If you™re not into soccer, think of it like Derek Jeter leaving the Yankees in July.
The key words of course being, “if you’re not into soccer”. Funny how Will thinks Man Ure are in the midst of a “dominant reign” when they finished 3rd the last two seasons and are currently 4th in the Premiership. Much like the Yankees’ currently dominant reign, then. Not everyone might remember Keane as so fondly as “the tough, winning-driven captain”, either, so perhaps Will can ask his “official soccer expert” about Alfe Inge Haaland.)
One of Willie Randolph’s not-so-secret weapons last season in Flushing, utility man Marlon Anderson, has signed a 2 year deal with Washington for a reported $1.85 million.
A .308 career pinch hitter, Anderson, 32, is smart enough bench addition by Nationals GM Jim Bowden, who seems pretty active for a guy whose deal runs out in April ( and is still under consideration for the Boston opening).
Kansas City has acquired free agent 3B Mike Coolbaugh (above), signing him to a minor league deal. Coolbaugh, 33, hit .281 with 27 HR’s and 101 RBI’s last season for the PCL’s Round Rock Express. Despite having hit 57 homers in Triple A over the past 2 seasons, Coolbaugh is projected to spend next season with Omaha.
Much as I love hearing Minnesota’s dirty laundry aired in public, I’m not sure what we’ve actually learned from Kevin Garnett’s complaints about T-Wolves GM Kevin McHale, or the forward’s more moderate remarks after last night’s 109-98 win over Washington.
Garnett (above, right) wasn’t exactly going out on a limb in saying that McHale’s tenue as interim coach failed to improve the team, nor should anyone be shocked there’s some regret over the way Flip Saunders left town, particularly in light of how he’s landed on his feet in Detroit.
Were Garnett moaning about the way the current club’s roster —- and there’s still plenty of season left for him to do just that —- it would really be a bigger story.
We’re 3 weeks into the regular season, by the way, and still no sign of Latrell Sprewell finding a new home.
Short of Byron Scott returning to New Jersey, could anything be more inspiring to the NY Post’s Peter Vescey than the Stephon Marbury/Larry Brown power struggle, nor Isiah Thomas’ inability to contain it?
Hours before Larry Brown’s flawed Knicks had their winning streak shattered by Phil Jackson’s flawed Lakers Wednesday, Thomas slyly rationalized “every roster is flawed, unless you win a championship.”
Lumping his lumps in with the other 28 non-titlists is a pity party not worth crashing.
That’s not the only silliness Thomas was selling Wednesday night at the Office Supply Store. He came up for oxygen long enough to solemnly swear last week’s report in this space – claiming teams have been advised of Stephon Marbury’s availability – is erroneous.
The media at large, caught up in its customary battle fatigue to differentiate fact from fiction, took a long swig of Thomas’ Kool-Aid. His unflinching denial was merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily (life is but a dream) publicized, as if Thomas is about to acknowledge he’s trying to pawn off his poisonous pet fawn, or admit Brown is instigating the attempted purging. Camp Cablevision’s James Dolan should’ve used his franchise’s one-time luxury tax exception (covering the current collective bargaining agreement) on Marbury instead of Jerome Williams when it had the opportunity to save a fortune and a wealth of aggravation.
Barring a return to the league by Shawn Kemp’s uncle Bob Whitsitt, it appears Marbury (and his $57 million over the next three seasons) isn’t going anywhere soon. Consequently, Brown’s mission is to make Marbury as miserable as possible by insisting he become the best point guard on the Knicks.
Though the Cubs have signed LHP Scott Eyre, Rob Glowacki of The Cub Reporter is somewhat less than blown away.
The deal itself is for 2 years with a player option for the third year. Reportedly, it’s for a total of $11 million, but I have no idea of the breakdown. The reason I’m not overly thrilled by this deal is that despite what is considered, “exceptional stuff”, it still hasn’t translated into “exceptional numbers”. He’s got an okay ERA and his K/9 rate has skyrocketed the last 2 years (8.37 in 2004, 8.56 in 2005), but he walks way too many batters (should fit right in with this ballclub) and when your team plays almost 100 games in parks named Petco, Dodger and “Insert Phone Company Here” Park, it’s going to do wonders for a pitcher’s home runs allowed. Especially a pitcher whose primary job is to face left-handed batters. He’s not suddenly going to turn into Greg Maddux on us, but his miniscule home runs allowed are bound to go up with the move, making those walks a bit more costly.
Don’t get me wrong, ordinary is fine. Ordinary can turn out quite good, or it could turn out quite bad. I would classify almost every move the White Sox made last off-season as ordinary and that turned out just great for them. But I ask, do you care to potentially spend $11 million on ordinary over the next 3 years? Let’s hope he ends up being extraordinary for the Cubs, but middle relievers are a fickle bunch (see Hawkins, LaTroy & Remlinger, Mike) and I don’t see anything that guarantees he’ll be lights out the next 3 years.
From the Man Who Puts The “Grity” In “Integrity” in today’s NY Post.
ESPN’s Stuart Scott, writing in the latest ESPN magazine, wonders how Joe Girardi, white man, can so quickly land a MLB manager’s gig while Willie Randolph waited for years.
One moment Scott reports that a team got “pimp-slapped.” In another moment, over clips of brutalized NFLers writhing in agony, he laughs and hollers, “He got jacked up!” And in the next moment he asks us to consider social rights from social wrongs.
Thanks, Phil. That really answers the question of why Joe Girardi was so quickly fast-tracked for managerial position while Willie Randolph’s wait was far longer. Does Stuart Scott’s overplayed schtick on TV mean he has no right to raise a serious issue in print? Or would Mushnick prefer that Scott stay out of the deep end and let Bob Costas handle the meaty questions of our time (when he’s not interviewing Angelina Jolie, that is).
If the taint of ESPN’s lowbrow approach precludes any of their staff from having a valid point of view, what conclusion can we reach about a News Corp. employee whose paycheck has for years been subsidized by advertisements for ticket scalpers, gun shops, titty bars and drug pushers?
The former Fab 5 star’s crazy contract is one even Isiah Thomas is unlikely to take on, writes the Globe & Mail’s Michael Grange.
Rose, the Raptors’ top-paid player, has been in a funk all season, the depths of which were likely reached on Wednesday, when Rose had four fouls, three turnovers and nary a point, rebound or assist in seven minutes of court time during a 121-115 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.
While there’s been plenty of poking and prodding going on, Rose (above) has kept his views about the Raptors’ direction either cryptic or private.
“I’ve just been doing a lot of praying and a lot of shutting up,” said Rose, who is averaging 13.3 points a game on 37-per-cent shooting, both well down from his marks last season.
Praying for the strength to shut up, he was asked?
“Yes,” he said. “Because when you’re not getting it done, there’s a lot of reasons.”
A 32-year-old with two years left on a contract that pays him roughly $32-million (all figures U.S.) this year and next, Rose sticks out like a thorn in the Raptors’ youth-driven rebuilding project.
But much as he would like things to change, and perhaps a change of scenery, he’s likely here for this season and the start of the next.
His primary value would be to a playoff-bound team, or at least a playoff-aspiring team, as a second-unit scorer. One destination that might fit the bill, for example, is the New York Knicks, who have heavily scouted the Raptors in the past two weeks.
The possibility of a trade involving Rose for the Knicks’ Anfernee Hardaway has been discussed in New York, according to a league source — and likely viewed wishfully in Toronto — but even Knicks president Isiah Thomas would have to give pause before making that deal.
Hardaway, who is essentially estranged from the club, has a maximum contract that will come off the books after this season, which explains the Raptors’ interest.
The question is: Would the Knicks be interested in paying Rose roughly $35-million next season — the $16.9-million owed on his contract for next year and the dollar-for-dollar penalty the Knicks would have to pay because their payroll would be over the luxury-tax threshold.
The answer is probably not.
Looks like Mick Jagger called this one. From the Boston Herald’s Michael Silverman.
There are rumors swirling that the Sox and San Diego Padres are in serious negotiations regarding Sox left-hander David Wells (above).
The Sox are interested in right-handed reliever Akinori Otsuka and outfielder Dave Roberts, while the Padres are intent on keeping Otsuka, especially with Trevor Hoffman likely gone.
The Padres do not intend to flip center fielder Mike Cameron, who they just acquired in a trade with the Mets. The Padres have wanted to acquire Cameron for some time and reportedly were relieved they didn™t have to give up Otsuka to get him.
The Sun-Sentinel’s Mike Berardino and Juan C. Rodriguez are the first observers I’ve noticed to claim that the Mets’ acquisition of 1B Xavier Nady from San Diego might be designed with a target other than Manny Ramirez in mind.
There were indications Thursday the Mets were ratcheting up their pursuit of Marlins first baseman Carlos Delgado. The pending acquisition of young slugger Xavier Nady from the Padres would give the Mets another attractive trade chip to send the Marlins’ way.
The key to any deal with the Mets, however, would be Venezuelan right-hander Yusmeiro Petit (above), New York’s top pitching prospect. The Marlins also could ask for some combination of young right-hander Aaron Heilman, first baseman Mike Jacobs or middle infielder Chris Woodward.
Marlins catcher Paul Lo Duca, who appears available as well, has drawn interest from the Rockies, but his $12.5 million remaining obligation the next two seasons could be a deterrent. The Rockies also like reliever Guillermo Mota, whose salary could climb past $3 million next year through arbitration.
Rockies outfielder Larry Bigbie is expendable, affordable and a trade target of the Marlins dating to last summer.
Dumping salary remains the Marlins’ primary offseason focus. According to one baseball source with knowledge of their situation, the Marlins’ payroll could dip to $50 million next season, even lower than previously thought.
That would be a decrease of almost 25 percent from the franchise-record $66 million they spent to open last season.
“Fifty [million] is their absolute point of pain,” the source said. “They are in dire straits.”
Money has grown so tight that most of the Marlins’ top scouts and player-development staffers received annual raises of 1 percent or less. The team canceled several international scouting trips that had been scheduled.
Speaking with the NY Daily News’ Adam Rubin, Mets LF Cliff Floyd is amongst those who will rue the departure of Mike Cameron, along with wondering aloud what else might be in the works.
“For him, it’s a great thing. For us it’s a horrible thing,” Floyd said yesterday, referring to Cameron’s ability to keep the atmosphere upbeat and loose in the clubhouse and dugout. “I might be biased and selfish, but when you like someone and get to know them and click, it’s kind of hard to break up.”
The Mets’ acquisition of outfielder/first baseman Xavier Nady for Cameron should be announced by tomorrow. Cameron is expected to take an eye exam in San Diego today.
Floyd said he’s curious about the direction the Mets are going after this trade, wondering if the salary savings might be the prelude to a bigger acquisition like Manny Ramirez. He may contact GM Omar Minaya at some point to get a better understanding. Still, Floyd – who will be in the final year of his contract in 2006 – indicated Cameron’s departure should not affect his own tenure with the team.
“They pay me to play ball,” Floyd said. “If anything comes about, it’s definitely not going to come from me at this particular point. I do have some questions to ask.”
New York’s Stephon Marbury (4 points, 10 assists Wednesday’s 97-92 loss to the Lakers) would rather be moved to shooting guard. Larry Brown seems convinced (and this is very faint praise) that Marbury is the Knicks’ only viable option at the point.
Depending on who else has a contract they want to dump, Marbury might be the immoveable object in this clash.
From the New York Times’ Howard Beck.
“I’m not playing the way how I normally play,” Marbury (above), sounding exasperated, said Thursday. “And I know that I could do way more than what I’m doing. I know last night I got 10 assists, and it felt like that was the hardest 10 assists I ever got.”
In a clear indication of how differently they view the matter, Brown praised Marbury’s performance as a play-maker in that game. He sounded incredulous at Marbury’s remark that he was O.K. with the new role as long as the Knicks were winning.
“When have we won here? Did we win the other way?” Brown said, referring to Marbury’s record as a scoring-first point guard. “So let’s get real here. We’re trying to get better. We’re trying to figure out a way to win games.
“I talked to him last night, he told me he wanted to play off-guard. It’s not that easy right now. What, are we going to invent a point guard? I’m just trying to figure out ways to help guys. But this is a work in progress.”
More Marbury quotes from Newsday’s Greg Logan.
“Hell, yes, it’s frustrating,” Marbury said yesterday of his adjustment from scorer to playmaker. “I’m not used to playing in a game where I’m not attacking the person that’s going at me. That’s something different.” Marbury said he’s committed to winning and doing whatever Brown asks of him. But his endorsement of Brown’s methods comes with a warning label.
“If he wants me to play a different way, which I am playing a total different way, then if that’s what it’s going to take to win, I’m down for it,” Marbury said. “But if we lose, I’m not going to be happy with it.”
Brown wants Marbury to learn when to be aggressive and when to get others involved, but the controlled approach feels restrictive. “I shouldn’t have to go on the court and decide where I’m going to be aggressive,” Marbury said. “I should be able to be aggressive the whole time.”
(Sky’s Chris Kamara isn’t too worried about less screen time — he’s got the family t-shirt business to fall back on)
Though the European Commission has ruled that BSkyB can no longer hold exclusive rights to all live Premier League matches, the decision that still allows the satellite programmer to retain as many as 5 of 6 available packages should leave things largely unchanged. From the Independent’s Nick Harris.
Sky has much lose, including annual subscription revenues of some £2bn from football fans, if it does not retain most of the rights. It also has the deepest pockets, which will help to ensure it keeps them. And because the selling process will be an auction in the truest sense – bidding and rebidding allowed, not just one bid in a sealed envelope, with the highest winning – the stage is set for it to exploit its financial clout.
Importantly, the EC is now satisfied that there will be no “stitch-up” in favour of Sky when the next rights are auctioned in the spring. It was widely believed, crucially by the EC, that Sky won all the rights last time, for seasons 2004-07, by paying an “exclusivity premium”, or a bonus for getting everything. Sky has always declined to state categorically whether this was true.
Whatever, it cannot be the case next time. Each of the six new packages of rights – of 23 games each, as opposed to four packages last time, of 38, 38, 31 and 31 games – will be sold on a stand-alone basis.
Three key questions remain unanswered. Will the new set-up actually give football fans “greater choice and better value” as the EC claims? Will NTL really step meekly from the fray? And if it does, how might that affect the rights’ value, and therefore Premiership clubs’ income?
Better value is not guaranteed. It is possible Sky will win five packages, and keep its prices to viewers the same, while a pay-TV operator such as Setanta wins the sixth, and charges for it. To watch the same number of games could actually cost more.
(Larry explains to a young fan that he doesn’t care what Mike Lowell told the Make A Wish Foundation — he’s not taking a kid to the Gold Club).
From the Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Dave O’Brien.
Chipper Jones put his money where his mouth was.
The Braves third baseman has agreed to a contract restructuring that would reduce his salary from $17 million to $11 million in 2006 and could save the Braves about $15 million over the next three seasons.
The deal, which can’t be finalized until Jones passes a physical exam for insurance purposes, would presumably enable the club to free up salary so it could address other needs this winter, including its attempt to re-sign free agent shortstop Rafael Furcal and possibly pursue a top closer.
Jones’ agent, B.B. Abbott, said the new contract would turn a pair of $15 million vesting-option years in 2007 and 2008 into guaranteed years at $11 million per season.
It also includes a $4 million signing bonus due in January, and adds a vesting option for 2009 worth between $8 million and $11 million, the salary to be set according to performance incentives in the previous year.
Given Atlanta’s bullpen troubles last season, I’m surprised we’ve heard relatively little about their interest in Trevor Hoffman or Billy “Don’t Make Me Move To New York” Wagner.
The Japan Times is reporting that free agent C Kenji Jojima has cancelled his scheduled meeting with the New York Mets and is already on his way back to Japan. This could mean that Jojima has already decided to sign with another club, or perhaps the Mets have told him they plan to go in another direction. A third possibility could be that word is out about Mrs. Jeff Wilpon’s cooking. I’m not saying she’s clueless in the kitchen, but her microwave display says “TILT”.
Note to all of my close friends who work in television. Feel free to use that joke anytime you want. Particularly if you’re not working on a comedy.
Mets prospect Lastings Milledge hit a solo HR earlier today in Team USA’s 7-4 win over Nicaragua. Milledge’s skipper, Davey Johnson is a probable candidate for manager of the US’ World Baseball Classic squad, along with Lou Piniella, Tommy Lasorda, Mike Krzyzewski and William Devane.
“I thought he was a great guy and he was very inspiring, too. I thought he was maybe the smartest person I’d met in 10 years, and I told him things that I haven’t told anybody in my whole life. And he was really a good dancer. ” She says she wasn’t aware of the huge tabloid interest in him when they met. “What I’d like to do is shake hands with that guy and square off and apologise.”
The recovering Courtney Love, speaking fondly of Radio Norwich’s overnight man, in Friday’s Guardian.
There’s no futher testament to the paucity of top flight starting pitching from the current free agent crop than A.J. Burnett demanding a 5 year pact. Remarkably, the Toronto Blue Jays might well give it to him, to the tune of $50 million (presumably US Dollars, but that might explain a bit).
Supposedly, the Nationals are also very keen on Jack McKeon’s least favorite competitor, but given their unresolved ownership situation, it would be a huge surprise if MLB signed off on such a transaction.
Pittsburgh has signed OF Jason Bay to a 4 year contract extension said to be worth $18 million. Nothing like adding to the payroll to scare off Mark Cuban.
Citing lax leadership and general ‘tude troubles, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s John Levesque has some brilliant advice for the Seattle Mariners.
My immediate reaction to reports that Ichiro Suzuki thinks the Mariners lack leadership?
My immediate reaction to how they should solve the problem?
Walk across the street.
On second thought, maybe they should run. And not worry too much about waiting for the light to change. It’s a long signal. Time is of the essence. And throwing caution to the wind, while not featured in the Mariners’ operations manual, may be prudent in this case.
Safeco Field sits across Royal Brougham Way from Qwest Field, but the Mariners and the Seahawks are so far apart on the pizzazz-o-meter they might as well be on different planets, not different sides of the street.
The Seahawks, seemingly playoff bound and buoyed by an infectious enthusiasm that was conspicuous as far back as training camp in August, have a CEO and a president who have their organization marching double-time to a happy tune.
The Mariners, seemingly moribund for two-plus seasons, have a CEO and a president who have their organization trudging along to the gloomy strains of a funeral dirge.
I don’t know how the Mariners could be missing the most obvious of solutions : just give Shaun Alexander the ball 35 times a game.
I believe it was the late Joe Strummer who sang “when I am fitter / I’ll raise bail for Gary Glitter.”
Actually, that wasn’t the line at all. But if you had a crap stereo, you could be easily fooled.
From the Associated Press (thanks to Dave Martin for the link).
Authorities said Thursday they are searching for former British rock star Gary Glitter over his alleged relationship with a Vietnamese teenager.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Dung said officials have confirmed that Glitter, 61, whose real name is Paul Francis Gadd, was residing in a home in southern Vung Tau city and had applied for permanent resident status in Vietnam.
Glitter rose to fame with glam-rock songs in the 1970s, most notably his only U.S. hit, “Rock and Roll Part 2,” a largely instrumental song that has been a staple at stadium sporting events for years. Among his other songs hits were “I’m the Leader of the Gang (I Am)” and “Do You Wanna Touch.”
Glitter fell from grace in 1999 when he was convicted in Britain of possessing child pornography. He served half of a four-month jail sentence before being released. He later went to Cambodia and was permanently expelled in 2002, though Cambodian officials did not specify his crime or file charges.
Dung said that Glitter had left the house on Nov. 12, and police are seeking his whereabouts.
“At present, relevant authorities Ba Ria Vung Tau province are trying to trace this gentleman, and clarify the relationship between this gentleman and a Vietnamese juvenile,” he said.